Sunday, June 14, 2009

Project 7 Speech - Electronic Voting Machine

How many of you voted in the recent elections?
Conducting free and fair elections in our country, the world’s largest democracy is a Herculean task.
But once again we have done it successfully!
One of the major reasons for the success is the Electronic Voting Machines viz., EVMs.
EVMs did play a very major role in ensuring free and fair elections in a very effective and efficient manner.
Let me share with you some interesting facts to support my viewpoint.
For those of you who voted, these facts would reinforce your belief in our electoral system.
For those who did not vote, it would clarify some of your doubts about our electoral process and the EVMs.

Whenever a new technology is introduced, most of us are skeptical about it. So was the case with EVM too. There were lots of concerns about its reliability, integrity and security. Let me tell you how the process of electronic voting and the features of EVM addressed these concerns.

The first and foremost concern - Is EVM a tamper proof device?
Yes it is! I can neither change the software program embedded in its chip nor manipulate the data in its memory.

What if someone manages to pre-program the chip in one’s favor?
No! This won’t work because EVMs are allocated to polling stations in a random manner. As a programmer I will not know beforehand to which polling station a specific machine will be sent.

As a candidate how can I be sure that everything is OK with EVMs used in my constituency?
Before the polling begins the presiding officer will prove to the candidate’s agents, that the machine’s memory is blank and will also demonstrate the proper working of the device.

What if booth is captured while polling is going on? How can an EVM help here?
EVM as a device cannot eliminate booth capturing, but it minimizes the risk.
A vigilant polling officer, can press the "close" button on the EVM to prevent recording of any vote, if he sees intruders entering the polling station.
Assuming the booth gets captured, in the paper-based voting system the intruders will rapidly stamp hundreds of votes in their candidate’s favor within 5-10 minutes and run away before the police force arrives. But with EVM based voting, the machine will not allow them to cast more than 5 votes per minute. This means it will take 30 minutes to cast 150 votes. This gives police enough time to come and catch them.

Can EVMs work in a remote area where there is no power?
Absolutely! EVMs run on batteries and have no dependency on the power supply.
But what if the batteries get discharged?
The polled data in the EVM will remain intact even if the batteries get discharged fully!

You saw in these elections that all the results were declared in just half-a-day. I remember the days when it took at least 3 days for all the results to come in. It was the deployment of EVMs that drastically reduced the turn around time.

And now get ready for some more interesting facts and figures.
Do you know that more than 13 lakhs EVMs were deployed in the recent polls? Barring some minor isolated problems, they all worked successfully.
Do you know that the deployment of EVMs saved us nearly Rs 200 crores, as we avoided consuming nearly 10,000 tonnes of ballot paper! Consequently we have saved 2.4 lakh trees! Because each tonne of paper requires 24 trees to be cut down.

So EVMs helped our economy, environment and democracy!

Now for the best part. EVMs are indigenously designed and manufactured in India by BEL, Bangalore and ECIL, Hyderabad. Mr. S. Rangarajan, the electronics engineer in BEL, who headed the EVM development team, was also a very famous author of several Tamil science-fiction thrillers. He wrote under the pen name Sujatha. He once said, “EVM is one invention I shall be as proud of as my writings”.

We too must feel very proud of the way India has effectively and efficiently developed and deployed EVMs and demonstrated its commitment towards ensuring free and fair elections.

However feeling proud is not enough! EVMs on its own cannot ensure a successful democracy. We as responsible citizens of this country should make it a point to vote in each and every election! Let us all convince as many people we can to vote in every election and ensure a successful democracy.


[Date Delivered: June 13 2009


* Collect information about your topic from numerous sources
* Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustrations gathered through research.

Time: Five to Seven Minutes

Most of the facts and figures presented in the speech are sourced from the website of Election Commision of India and internet archives of many leading newspapers of India.
An ad display in HDFC Bank requesting its customers to opt for receiving account statements through e-mail instead of paper statements, highlighted the fact that 24 trees are cut down to manufacture 1 tonne of paper. I used this information in this speech to highlight the fact that savings of 10,000 tonnes of ballot paper resulted in preventing 2.4 lakhs of trees from being cut down]


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